Columbus mayoral candidates meet for debate

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 Messenger photo by Rachel Scofield
 Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman debates his opponent Bill Todd on Oct. 3.

In a debate with incumbent Mayor Michael Coleman, challenger William Todd said that to attract and retain residents, Columbus needed good schools, a strong economy and safe neighborhoods.

Coleman said that the schools improved from academic emergency to continuous improvement, Columbus created and retained 12,000 jobs while the state of Ohio lost 20,000 and that the city has demolished abandoned houses to make neighborhoods safer.

Coleman said that Todd’s promise to take over the city schools if elected is campaign rhetoric and that Todd has no plan for how to run the schools.

The largest donation to Todd’s campaign came from a company specializing in private schools; however, Todd said the company “would not be a vendor to the city during my administration.”

Coleman said of the 30 charter schools in the area, three performed better than Columbus schools, but 27 did not perform as well.

“No one should make a profit on our children,” Coleman said.  “We didn’t improve our schools by evacuating the kids and spending more money in the courtroom than the classroom,” in reference to Todd’s suit against the Columbus school district.

Todd said that without strong schools, people will continue to move from Columbus leaving behind the poor and disadvantaged.

Young people also leave the city because it lacks jobs and entertainment, Todd said.

Columbus dropped from 54th to 156th in the country for high tech jobs over the past four years, Todd said.

“My older son went to Chicago for New Year’s Eve because he said there was nothing to to do here in Columbus,” Todd said.

Coleman said that the city asked a group of young professionals what Columbus needed to do to attract more college graduates.

Internships are one method.  “I came (to Columbus) as an intern with the attorney general,” Coleman said.

Affordable houses downtown, additional bike paths and a vibrant area such as the Short North would attract young professionals, Coleman said.

In terms of gun control, Coleman stands behind the city’s assault weapons ban.  While Todd supports the state’s less-stringent gun restrictions.

“(Nobody needs) an AK-47 to shoot deer crossing Broad and High,” Coleman said.

“The gun issue is a red herring,” Todd said.  “The issue is crime not guns.”

Coleman said that it was not responsible for Todd to allow more weapons into Columbus and expect lower crime rates.  “Here’s more guns.  Don’t use them.”

Neither candidate supports tax increases.

Coleman said that in 2012 Columbus will celebrate its bicentennial.  He plans to improve the city so that by 2012, Columbus will reach a “golden age.”

“I want it to be the beginning of this city’s renaissance,” Coleman said.

With 20 percent of residents below the poverty level, Todd said that Columbus can not wait to act until 2012, and it should start on January 1.

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